CoRPS Center of Excellence

Research of the Department Medical and Clinical Psychology is embedded in CoRPS.

Cardiovascular disorders

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in the western world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the number of people that will die from cardiovascular diseases will increase from 17,1 million in 2004 to 23,4 million in 2030. The same report indicates that in 2030 (ischemic) heart disease will still be the cause of death number one. In the Netherlands, cardiovascuclar disease is the leading cause of death in women and the second cause of death in men (source: CBS), with thousands of people dying from myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke.

Research in the area of cardiovascular diseases carried out at CoRPS targets the following themes:

Psychological and biobehavioral risk factors

CoRPS researchers investigate novel psychological and biobehavioral risk factors for adverse health outcomes and death in patients with cardiovascular diseases. That is ”How can clinicians and researchers recognize patients at high risk of a poor clinical prognosis?” CoRPS researchers and other international leaders in this field have shown that psychological factors (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression, and personality factors) play an important role in cardiovascular disease progression. Examples of these health outcomes are: morbidity (suffering from other diseases), recurrent heart attacks and hospitalizations and mortality. The role of psychological factors is examined in patients undergoing medical interventions such as percutaneous angioplasty and implantation of an internal cardiac defibrillator. These factors may also explain why patients with the same syndrome may react in a different way to treatment and may have a different recovery and course of disease.

Medical and psychological factors

Another important cardiovascular research area of CoRPS targets the influence of medical and psychological factors on quality of life and self-reported symptoms. The experience of the individual patient takes a central role in this research. An important research question is: ‘How can we best measure the impact of a heart disease on the quality of life as experienced by a patient with cardiac disease?’ The mechanisms by which psychological factors influence disease progression are investigated by the interdisciplinary research team of CoRPS. The primary adverse health behaviors include physical inactivity, smoking, poor dietary habits, medication non-adherence and poor self-management. The biological mechanisms include autonomic nervous system dysregulation, inflammation and other immune system-related processes and neurohormonal aspects of cardiovascular disease. These biobehavioral risk factors are investigated from the biopsychosocial theoretical perspective with further detailed applications to specific disease-related processes.

Novel behavioral and psychological interventions

Research at CoRPS also evaluates novel behavioral and psychological interventions in patients with cardiovascular disease. Behavioral interventions include exercise training and smoking cessation, as part of cardiac rehabilitation or as independent interventions. Psychological interventions include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and internet-based interventions. Important questions are asked, such as ”To what extent do interventions lead to better coping with a disease, a better quality of life, and improved clinical prognosis?”

The overarching goal of the cardiovascular research program at CoRPS is to improve clinical care and patients’ quality of life.